YANG YIN THERE

It’s the difference between anthracite and lignite
he said with his sort of all-knowing smirk.

Quite to the contrary, she snapped back,
it’s the difference between pahoehoe and aa.

He clearly wasn’t pleased, those examples are
like night and day and you’re in the dark.

Only you can’t begin to tell between makai
and mauka, but I love you despite it all.

And I you, so what if you couldn’t hope
to distinguish between a fastball and a knuckler.

You’re really going to hang a curveball like that?
Even a girl like me will take that one downtown.

He laughed, that’s why we are so good together
we agree on so very little most of the time.

She giggled, I can’t believe you said that,
although on that one, narrow point I must agree.

RETURNING

Time has no role to play in any of this.
Time isn’t pleased by the prospect,
it prefers to be ever present, ever
escaping, even as it is arriving.
It is quirky that way.
It is constant yet it loves
to give the impression of being variable.
Einstein noted this, and anyone
returning from a long drive is
aware the return is always the shorter trip.
Unless, of course, you suffer
from a bad back, then time
really has the last laugh.

HAVING WRITTEN

I suppose I ought to be glad
that no playwright has ever written
about me, for that is a fame that always
seems to end badly, unless it is a comedy,
and that, too, is dangerous ground,
for such plays tread heavily for a laugh.

Consider Shakespeare, and ask
yourself if yo would want to ever be
one of his protagonists, no doubt ending
up prematurely dead, and carrying all
manner of sin and angst to your grave,
while others gather to note your failures.

I suppose I could try a one-man show,
autobiographical, but only if I directed
myself, and even that would be challenging
as I don’t take direction well, but my early
attempts at its creation failed miserably,
as my audience, the mirror, made clear.

HUMOR

Humor is highly subjective
and what will make
you laugh is just
as likely to elicit
a groan, or worse, from me.
Things I find funny
you are likely to think
absurd or foolish.
It has always been this way
and this is how it will
likely continue, so funny
will remain the final proof
of Einstein’s general theory
and rest assured, he’s laughing
in his grave.

FOR THE BIRDS

She wants to know why the oriole
we sometimes see in the park
never visits our backyard feeder.
I remind her that she isn’t usually here,
only visits occasionally, but she says
that I would have told her if I saw one.
She says I got excited when I saw the one
in the park during our walk. She is
right, of course, I would have told her
but all I see at the feeders are finches
of several sorts, doves and wrens, and
when he wants particularly to be seen
as he often does, one cardinal
who is far less interested in the seed
than in having a perch in plain sight, and
when he knows were watching, upthrusts
his fiery crest and spreads his wings.
I tell her cardinals are such show offs.
She is seven, laughs and says yes they are,
just like grandfathers, don’t you think.

ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

DHARMA

In Tibet there are
more than 80 words
to describe states of consciousness,
several words to explain
the sound of prayer flags
rustling in a Himalayan breeze
that reaches up to the crest
of the peaks that lick
at the slowly gathering clouds,
all of these words never uttered.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the soft brush
of your lips across my cheek,
your hair pressed into my chest.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the faint bouquet
of soap and morning coffee
as she dries herself slowly
in the mirror that runs along the sinks.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the sound of her laugh
half giggle as we watch the kitten
roll on her back, paws up
reaching for the mote of dust
dancing on the heat rising
from the fireplace, pressed down
by the lazily spinning ceiling fan.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe her eyes as they dart
after the Monarch that flits above
the deep purple Sedum that stands
in silent prayer to the sun.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe how she cringes
at the sight of the buck
lying alongside the road
eviscerated by the fender
of the car, long gone, his horn
buried in the shallow dirt.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the ripples of her spine
as I run my finger down her back
while she curls, grasping
at the margins of sleep.
There are no words in Tibet
for all of these, no words
to fill the room, to blanket
the lumpy mattress on which I sit
staring at the blank screen
of the TV, reflecting the neon light
of the 24 hour diner that flashes
through the gauze curtains
of room 4218 of the Hyatt,
merely the echo of another plane
lifting out of the San Jose airport.

PRESENCE

He appeared rather suddenly,
and didn’t seem to stay very long.
Some claimed they knew he was coming,
most never saw him arrive,
although some said they saw him clearly,
that he visited frequently, that
they knew his presence unquestionably
and spoke to him at some length.
She knew there was much wishful thinking
and a dearth of reality, but she
had come to accept that they got
what they seemed so badly to need
at no cost to her or any others.
But her daughter, seeing all this,
could only laugh, for though she might
be young, she knew he didn’t appear,
he was always there, they just wouldn’t
close their eyes and see
what every child did.

MORROW’S WISH

Each night I stare up at the sky, scanning
for the one star that is there solely
to answer whatever entreaties I choose to make.
It is said that we each have a lucky star,
but perhaps, given the ever-expanding population
of the world, mine is just too dim to see
from the city in which I live, or perhaps,
I simply haven’t found it, and addressing
someone else’s star brings you nothing,
not even thanks from the lucky soul
who won the big lottery last week
all at my urging, I mean how could I know
it was their star I addressed with my request,
it isn’t like they wear name tags after all.
Still, I don’t give up trying, though
I often swear that Orion and Cassiopeia
spend a portion of every evening together
just laughing their celestial asses off at me.